Seven pm found me at hip hop class, at Alvin. I've realized that if I change into my gym clothes at work, and quickly dart from my office to the elevators without being spotted by anyone wearing business attire, then I can nimbly walk over to 55th and 9th in about fifteen minutes.
This was my third time at this class, and the teacher, who is awesome and pretty funny about the whole thing, was playing some straight-up Usher: "Take You There," great beat, catchy tune, exactly what I was hoping for. There were some moves where I could really get into it, add a little swag or aggression, make it look sharp or loose or fluid, however it needs to be done. About halfway through the class I realized the teacher was watching me, with a half smile on her face. After the combo, she stopped and said to me (in front of the other 20 or 30 people in the room): "I am so glad you are taking my class. I've been watching you since day one, you don't know it but I have, and you're all" -- and here she started rocking my dance face, thrusting her hips and swatting away at some imaginary partner -- "I love it! So masculine! I love your attitude, I am so glad you're here."
Well. I think for me, and perhaps many other men, having a woman like that compliment your masculinity basically opens the floodgates. After that I was trying to do good, but not too good, and just rolling with the beat.
A little while later she was watching me again, and I saw her, so I was trying hard to not screw up (since overconfidence and overthinking is the end of me every time) and afterward she came up to me for a pound: "Yeeesssssss! You do it!" A couple minutes later she had everybody change directions, away from the mirrors, and she told me and a few others to go up front, where we were basically leading everybody else. Then she made us go up front again, once it was time to face the mirror.
As the class drew to a close, after a few more rounds of our eight-counts, when my heart was pounding and I was good and sweaty, after she gave me a few more tips ("push your arms out -- it looks cool the way you're doing it, but for tonight just push your arms out"), she spoke to the whole group: "Don't think too hard, because when you think too hard you lose it. Find the nuances in this song -- this dude [pointing to me] is rocking it out [here she started working my dance face again, people kind of laughed], he's doing him and grooving out...He's feeling the nuances of the beat and not worried about the counts." She went on to highlight somebody else too, but I was not listening that hard. I felt that weird mixture of pride and embarrassment -- pride that you are doing good and doing it with passion, tempered by a little embarrassment that you're in the room to to begin with.
I have really been missing the hip hop element of my life, and tonight was spectacular. I didn't think I would be able to go to class because of work, but I'm so thankful I made it over. In some ways I feel like such a fish out of water at Alvin: too male, too old, too lawyerly, too married, too white. But to lose those preoccupations and just revel in the moment -- and then to have some outside validation that yes, I get it and yes, I belong here -- it makes everything else feel real and true and authentic.
Old white married lawyers doing eight-counts, what?